CHISZ CHAIR LETTER TO PARENTS JULY 2103

Dear CHISZ Parent

Parents will be aware that Heads have recently come back from their annual CHISZ Heads’ Conference, during which they were presented withtwelve addresses (five of which were given by speakers from beyond our borders). It proved to be a highly-inspiring, positive, encouraging and challenging time with plenty of time for interaction and debate between colleagues. On the downside, we have been deeply saddenedby the passing of the Chairperson, Mr Andy Gibson,a few days after the Conference ended. Our best wishes and prayers are for his family and the whole community of Murray MacDougall Primary School.

Many parents, however, may not be so aware of what CHISZ is, what it stands for and how their school fits in with it.CHISZ is the Conference of Heads of Independent Schools in Zimbabwe, currently comprising of 64 schools, having been formed in 1956 by 10 founding members.The five core tenets of the independence of CHISZ members are the rights of a school to:

  • follow its own distinctive mission (including its particular ethos, faith and philosophy
  • determine its learner admission and promotion policies
  • choose its own curriculum and exit examinations
  • determine how it will be governed, financed and staffed
  • manage its own operations

In that regard, each of the CHISZ schools is independent. However, it should be noted that no-one or no organisation is actually independent; CHISZ schools are dependent on the Ministry of Education regulations and the laws of the land. We are also dependent on other schools to provide competition and cooperation. In actual fact, we are not independent but inter-dependent. It is important therefore to realise that it is not independence that marks our schools out from each other but it is our differences. These differences are to be celebrated and enjoyed but they come within the framework of education as a whole. In that regard, we must respect, value and be grateful for our inter-dependence; we cannot simply try to use our ‘independence’ when it suits us. We cannot use each other for our own gain.We need each other. Murray MacDougall Primary School needs us all right now.

In that regard, parents as much as Heads and teachers of CHISZ schools need to see the big picture, to recognise that we, as an organisation, are only as strong as our weakest school. Our strength comes from numbers acting in unison for a common purpose.At the end of the day it is not our school that is important; it is the children in them, the future generation. Our school’s results are not important in themselves; we seek the development of each child’s talents which in turn will help this country. We need lots of strong schools, not just a handful, if education, including sport, in this country is going to develop. To that end, therefore, we need to cooperate (operate together) at all levels.

This becomes all the more important though as we are currently facing a situation where more and more new schools, in particular privately-owned schools, want to join CHISZ. This has helped us to look at who we are and remind ourselves of our core values, which include Integrity and Accountability, Ethical Governance, Professionalism, Freedom of Choice, Service, Leadership, Upholding spiritual and moral principles. In addition, the CHISZ Heads have agreed to a Code of Conduct by which all our schools will be measured to stand alongside the existing Code of Ethical Practice and Charter for Sport to which we have all subscribed.

At the same time, CHISZ is bringing in, as a central part of our commitment, an Independent Quality Assurance programme which will help each school to be more accountable.

In the light of the above, it seems appropriate to underline to all parents at CHISZ schools a number of points.

Parents need to respect the practices of the school that they have chosen and not try to change them if they do not like them. As has been noted, each school is different so there is plenty of choice for parents. No parent is being forced to stay at a fee-paying school. Related to that, if a parent is not happy with the fulfilment of the school’s procedures in line with the stated goals, then they should ensure they follow the correct channels of communication to have their concerns addressed. It would also be helpful to remember that there is no perfect school on this earth, just as there is no perfect parent. It will help strongly though if the values that the school upholds are also upheld by the parents at home.

Parents are also required to respect the Code of Ethics that prohibits schools approaching pupils (or their parents) of other schools with inducements to recruit pupils to that school, other than in open transparent ways. Failure to do so could lead to the school being suspended from CHISZ. In the sporting arena, which plays an important part in the whole curriculum of our schools, parents are required to adhere to the Charter for Sport and to each school’s own practices and Codes of Conduct. Parents need to understand that the school’s sports fixtures are not there for the parents’ entertainment, nor are they even purely there for their child’s entertainment (though it should be reinforced that sport is meant to be fun) but primarily for the child’s education – for things that cannot be learnt in the classroom. Schools are judged as much by the spectators’ behaviour as by the actual results. That is why the vast majority of CHISZ schools have a “No Alcohol” policy at their school, especially during matches. It is not too much to ask parents to refrain from drinking alcohol for just two hours, all the more so in front of their own children and all the more so as our teenage drinking culture in this country is so dangerous. (In that light, we urge parents to get behind the initiative “Zimpact”, which has been formed as ‘Zimbabweans against Drunk Driving’). Parents are required to respect the CHISZ Charter for Sport as much as the pupils are required to respect the school’s rules.Parents must understand that their example at all times is absolutely crucial.

Parents, accept responsibility for your child as much as you demand rights and rewards for them. Never say “Never” in the manner of “My child would never do that.”

In all of this, the message is that we must all see the big picture. The Big Picture is not our child; it is not even our school. It is not about remaining unbeaten or getting higher grades than others. It is about developing each child, every child, in every area of life. It is about developing sport as a whole and not simply my child’s talent. It is about developing Zimbabwe and raising up “a generation that will take its place with selfless faith”.

We all need CHISZ. CHISZ has certain standards and values. Therefore we all (Heads, teachers, parents) need to ensure that our behaviour does not diminish the value of our schools.Help us to strengthen the bonds that exist already.

Celebrate sport; celebrate academics and culture; celebrate life; celebrate talent and effort. We may be different but we can all work together.